Caballa en Escabeche

Mackerel Marinated in Sherry Vinegar and Aromatics


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Tapas


Appears in


By Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

Published 2007

  • About

If you’ve never had escabeche then a small act of faith may be necessary to believe me when I say this is one of the most wonderful ways of preparing fish. Whole fish, cutlets or fillets of lightly fried fish are steeped in a bath of spiced wine and vinegar. Fresh and invigorating, it is actually based on an ancient method of preserving fish, birds and game that goes back to Roman times. In fact, fish prepared in this way will keep wonderfully in the refrigerator for days.

I use mackerel, a highly underrated fish that is firmly textured, strongly flavoured and so, so, so good for you. You can use any other robustly flavoured fish. That said, a friend of mine, not in the restaurant trade, once had to use up 3 kg (6 lb 12 oz) of relatively bland gemfish, which had been defrosted. The escabeche perked up the tired fish and went on to make three or four spectacular appearances at summer barbecues over the course of the week.


  • 12 Slimy Mackerel fillets or other strong flavoured fish (about 100 g/ oz each)
  • seasoned plain (all-purpose) flour, to coat
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) olive oil
  • fine sea salt
  • 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) escabeche
  • 1 small handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) extra virgin olive oil


Lightly coat the fish in the flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Pan-fry the fish for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown. Season each side with sea salt. The fish should flake easily but not be falling apart.

Remove the fish and allow to drain and cool on paper towel. Place the fish in a single layer in a large, non-metallic dish and pour the escabeche over the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The fish will keep covered in the refrigerator for several days.

To serve, remove the fish from the marinade, spoon over several tablespoons of the marinade and vegetables, sprinkle with the parsley and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.